Election fraud cases: Hearing on constitutional challenge adjourned to May 15

…parties to file submissions & responses; GECOM seeking to join proceedings

The hearing on the constitutional challenge brought by two of those accused of electoral fraud offences has been adjourned until next month, even as their former employer, the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), is seeking to join the proceedings.
On Wednesday at the High Court, acting Chief Justice Roxane George heard a motion seeking to have Section 140 (2) of the Representation of the People Act (RoPA) struck down as unconstitutional.

Attorney General Anil Nandlall

This motion was filed by Attorney-at-Law Nigel Hughes, on behalf of former Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield and his former deputy, Roxanne Myers. When the matter was called, however, it was indicated that their former employer, GECOM, wished to join the proceedings as a party.
Attorney General Anil Nandlall on behalf of the State and King’s Counsel Darshan Ramdhani, on behalf of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) chambers, were already part of the proceedings. Ramdhani, who is supporting GECOM’s application to join, noted that the election agency has a stake in these proceedings and should be present.
“They have asked to be joined. I have also supported their application to join, because I think GECOM should be heard on this matter. Because you’re asking GECOM to give up their correspondence, communication. Those things are supposed to be kept privileged and confidential by law. So at least if you’re going to deal with whether that law is unconstitutional or not, they will be heard,” Ramdhani said.
The attorney general was given until April 17 to file an affidavit in answer to the motion, while written submissions are due by May 2. Hughes was given until May 9 to reply to those submissions, while the matter has been adjourned until May 15 at 13:15h.

Respect critical
Meanwhile, during his latest “Issues in the News” program, Nandlall reinforced his respect for the judiciary. However, he lamented the length of time it has taken for these cases to be heard and determined.
“When I say anything, I am being accused of criticizing the judiciary. Of criticizing the magistracy. Of interference. I am just giving you the information because you are requesting it and you are entitled to an update. I believe and I reiterate. That this case is unduly delayed and every opportunity that presents itself for the case to be delayed, that opportunity is acted upon. And that is a fair commentary on the state of affairs.”
The defendants in the election fraud cases are former Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield, his former deputy Roxanne Myers, former Region Four Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo, former People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) Chairperson Volda Lawrence; PNCR activist Carol Smith-Joseph, and GECOM employees Sheffern February, Enrique Livan, Denise Babb-Cummings, and Michelle Miller.
They are accused of several offences, including misconduct while holding public office, presenting falsified documentation, and planning to manipulate Guyana’s voters by presenting an inaccurate vote total.
These charges stemmed from attempts to rig the 2020 General and Regional Elections in favour of the then-ruling A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) coalition. These accused persons are all out on cash bail.
Shortly after GECOM had announced the election results on August 2, 2020, charges were brought against the individuals in question. In August 2021, GECOM voted to terminate the employment of Lowenfield, Myers, and Mingo.
Last year, the prosecution had asked the Chancellor of the Judiciary (ag), Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards to assign a special court to hear the cases, to expedite them. Concerns regarding the unsatisfactory progress in these cases have been voiced by a number of persons besides the Attorney General.
Meanwhile, the minutes sought by Hughes pertain to those taken before, during and after the tabulation process that followed the 2020 General and Regional Election at Ashmin’s Building. The request had been communicated to the prosecution in February and when the hearing was supposed to start, made known to the wider public.
When the matter came up before Daly again on March 6, she referred the matter to the High Court to determine whether Section 140 (2) of the Representation of the People Act (ROPA) clashed with constitutional considerations pertaining to the right to a fair trial and the disclosure of the documents, which are in GECOM’s possession.
Section 140 (2) of ROPA states that “No evidence of any deliberations of the Elections Commission or communications between members of the Commission regarding its business shall be admissible in any court”. (G3)